The NFL Reflects America’s Subtle Racism

Coaches plan, players play, owners collect.

Someone once told me “Never trust a man whose collar is a different colour than his shirt.” Source: USA Today
Seems fair.

Polite Racism

Among 2018’s crop of Oscar nominees for Best Picture was Jordan Peele’s perfect movie Get Out, a story filled with deliberately cringe-worthy expressions of patronizing liberal piety (e.g. “I would’ve voted for Obama a third time if I could”). This year’s equivalent (in theme, not genre) is the film Green Book starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. Ali portrays the expert pianist Don Shirley, a black man, as he embarks on a concert tour through America’s Deep South in 1962. At each stop he is welcomed warmly by his white hosts who greet him as a celebrity and applaud vigorously for his masterful performances. Only after the show do we see the latent racism rear its ugly head. When Shirley seeks to use the mansion’s restroom, he is pointed toward the outhouse. When he arrives at his final concert stop, hungry after many hours on the road, to eat dinner at the estate restaurant before his performance, he discovers that the dining area is reserved for whites only. The host politely informs him that these are merely “club rules” that cannot be altered, even for the guest of honour.

Silence toward any situation is just as political as active protest; silence preserves the status quo.

The NFL’s ownership profits on embracing a delicate balance of neoconservative American patriotism and superficial liberal sensibilities. To indulge the former, the armed forces are a permanent fixture in the league, from Salute to Service month — complete with special-edition camouflage merchandise (so you can feel like you’re one of the boys!)— to military aircraft flying over stadiums, to endless TV ads exhorting viewers to enlist. To humour others, until recently the league featured breast cancer awareness month each October, encouraging players and coaches to wear pink paraphernalia (which, of course, was also available for purchase). That initiative has since been replaced by a token gesture to end all token gestures, whereby the league permits players to showcase a personal charitable cause on their cleats.

Again, most of the money does not go to the players. Source: Twitter

Just Like the Story of Little Red Hen

If you’re an NFL fan, you may know that players occasionally praise the owner of their team during interviews or press conferences. In a league that counts among its ranks many athletes who endured impoverished, single-parent, and sometimes abusive childhoods, owners in pro sports can serve as mentors to young players. It’s natural that some players would feel a special connection to the person who employs them.

2018 winner of the Dalton Camp Award for essay-writing. M.A. Political Science. I'll go to the mat for the Oxford comma.

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